Andrew Grima’s Sunburst Brooch

By Sara Abey

My choice of this striking brooch links to a darling of the 2019/2020 film awards – Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. It was the creation half a century ago of the innovative British jewellery designer Andrew Grima (1921 – 2007), who led modern jewellery design in the UK in the 60s and the 70s. His clients included the Kennedys and the British Royal family. It has been said that Grima’s hallmark style with its combination of gold and coloured gems was born when he saw a collection of unusual gems, but so far, I have been unable to substantiate this appealing tale.

This brooch was made in about 1967 and has a centre lapis lazuli cabochon framed with oval turquoise, also cabochons. The textured 18 ct gold takes the form of a sunburst of irregular rays, a Grima signature. Seven small diamonds set in platinum accent the piece. Its maximum dimension is a whopping 8.4 cm. Befitting this large size it has a double pin on the back.

In 1968 film director Roman Polanski bought this brooch for his wife, the actress Sharon Tate, as a present for their first anniversary on 20 January 1969. Just seven months later she was brutally murdered at their Hollywood home by members of the Charles Manson “family”. A different version of the event is included in Tarantino’s 2019 movie with Margot Robbie playing Sharon Tate.

In 2007 Skinner’s auction house in Boston sold the brooch for US$9,988. It was given to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London by William and Judith Bollinger who also funded the new jewellery gallery there in 2008, which bears their name. This vibrant Grima brooch can be seen there in all its glory.